The heavily updated Porsche Cayenne will feature a totally reinvented cockpit inspired by the Taycan and with a heightened emphasis on driver engagement.
Stuttgart's revamped SUV flagship will break cover at the Shanghai auto show on 18 April before it goes on sale in the coming months with a raft of mechanical upgrades, a subtle new exterior design treatment and – as has now been revealed in official images – a comprehensively redesigned cabin.
Aimed at providing an "even more intensive driving experience" while facilitating interaction – both with the car and the front-seat passenger – the Cayenne's new dashboard is dominated by a full-width digital panel comprising three screens: a 12.6in curved instrument cluster, a 12.3in central infotainment screen and – new for 2023 – an optional touchscreen in front of the passenger.
This new 10.9in interface allows the passenger to "take the strain off the driver" by setting the sat-nav and adjusting the media settings. Innovative screening technology means it is invisible to the driver, minimising distraction on the move.
The 'free-standing' digital instrument display (with up to seven different views including a five-dial set-up reminiscent of the 911), new-generation steering wheel, dash-mounted drive selector and redesigned centre console take their lead from the Porsche Taycan - and it all forms part of Porsche's ploy to achieve "the right balance between digital and analogue elements".
Ben Weinberger, spokesman for Porsche's SUV models, told Autocar that this balance was crucial to maintaining the Cayenne's global appeal: "Of course, if you ask a Chinese customer, they say, the bigger screens the better - more screens and bigger screens, more lights... But if you ask a customer in Europe, or the US they say: 'No, I like knobs. I don't like this touchy stuff'."
The Cayenne's technological capability has also been significantly enhanced, gaining a new cooled wireless smartphone charging pad, Siri voice control, four USB-C fast charging ports and a new video streaming service that shows films on the central display when stationary, and on the passenger screen when moving.
Billed as “one of the most extensive product upgrades in the history of Porsche” by the firm, the new Cayenne has already been put through its paces in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America, covering more than four million test kilometres in prototype form.
Ramping up to its appearance at Shanghai, the SUV took on extreme conditions in desert, snowy and rugged mountain terrains, with Porsche engineers testing the model’s new semi-active chassis. Tests also included over 200,000km (124,300 miles) spent in urban traffic, on motorways and on country roads.
Porsche said it has been testing the Cayenne as if it had been “developed from scratch”, with the goal of “achieving an even wider range between the typical Porsche on-road performance, long-distance comfort and off-road capability.”
Towards the end of last year, Autocar exclusively drove a pre-production prototype of the new Cayenne. Read on to see what we thought…
Driving the 2023 Porsche Cayenne prototype
It’s early morning as a fleet of camouflaged new Porsche Cayennes leaves a Los Angeles hotel’s underground car park.
They join the traffic and run in convoy along the back roads of Venice Beach and Santa Monica, before reaching the Pacific Coast Highway and heading farther north beyond Malibu in search of challenging canyon roads.
These early-build prototypes, both in conventional SUV and coupe bodystyles, have been at the centre of a demanding test programme along the California coast and in Nevada’s Mojave Desert for almost a month.
Now, before they’re all flown back to Germany, where they will be torn down to study the wear and tear on various components or pushed into further testing duties, it’s our turn to discover how Porsche has tried to raise the Cayenne’s appeal against ever-growing competition from the likes of the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE and Range Rover Sport.
This ‘facelift’ is clearly more than just a token update. In fact, the changes are quite extensive, due to the decision to continue production well beyond what was planned at launch in 2017.
Model line director Stefan Fegg explains: “The Cayenne’s future is secure. With the investments we’re making in adding EVs to the line-up, we’ve decided to extend the life of many of our ICE cars. We’ve been given greater freedom than is usually the case at this point in the model cycle.”
Beyond confirming an electric Cayenne is inbound, Porsche won’t go into detail on what’s in store for the Cayenne after 2025, when the Mk4 was meant to arrive. What we can tell you, though, is that the facelifted Mk3 we’re driving here in prototype form certainly carries some rather significant changes.
While perhaps not quite as transformative as Porsche would have us believe, they subjectively make it a yet more compelling ownership proposition.
Porsche is a master in evolutionary design, and this is fully reflected in the stylistic updates introduced here. Look past the light camouflage and you will see the subtly reprofiled front bumper, the revised front wings and the slightly altered shape of the new matrix LED headlights, plus a series of similar changes at the rear.
As is usual at facelift time, there will also be new paint colours and optional wheel designs incoming. Furthermore, the base model and the S adopt larger, 20in wheels.
More significant revisions are concentrated beneath the bonnet, Porsche having introduced more potent versions of existing engines and new engine options altogether.
On the petrol side, the entry-level turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 now develops an added 14bhp and 37lb ft, at 349bhp and 369lb ft. The Audi-developed twin-turbocharged 2.9-litre V6 in the S is replaced by Porsche’s twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8, bringing an added 35bhp and 37lb ft, at 469bhp and 443lb ft. And the more heavily tuned version of that V8 in the range-topping Turbo GT gets a 20bhp increase, lifting it to 651bhp (although torque stays at 627lb ft).
Due to tightening emissions rules, though, the Turbo GT will no longer be offered in Europe and other markets that adhere to Euro 6AP regulations.
Meanwhile, the plug-in hybrids adopt a revised gearbox-mounted electric motor, which develops 40bhp more, at 174bhp. The turbocharged 3.0-litre petrol V6 in the E-Hybrid has actually been detuned slightly, from 335bhp to 300bhp, but the increase in electric reserves gives it an added 8bhp in overall output, at 464bhp (although also 37lb ft less torque, at 479lb ft). The PHEVs also receive a new 25.9kWh battery, giving them an extra 11.8kWh of energy storage.
They support faster rates of AC charging too, the limit rising from 7.2kW to 11kW. Revised software also brings a new charging strategy with a higher initial rate of charge. Porsche says the new battery and software have increased the electric-only range of the PHEVs by up to 80%, which should ensure close to 50 miles for the E-Hybrid. Along with successors to today’s E-Hybrid and S E-Hybrid, there will also be an additional PHEV, details of which remain under wraps.
Porsche is eager to discuss the Cayenne’s suspension, however, this having been “fundamentally revised and further developed”. Included is the adoption of Porsche Active Suspension Management with new twin-tube variable rate dampers on the steel suspension. The optional air suspension also returns to dual-chamber plungers from the current tri-chamber units. Buyers will also be able to choose from a new range of tyres that have taller sidewalls for claimed improvements in ride comfort.
Additionally, there are tweaks to the rear-wheel steering system on higher-end Cayennes. It’s claimed to provide a greater turning angle for the rear wheels at lower speeds for added agility in urban settings. The braking system has also been reworked, with a new electronic booster providing kinetic energy recuperation all the way to a stop.
The S prototype soon proved that the decision to replace the Audi V6 with a more potent Porsche V8 will raise its appeal. With a 0-62mph time of around 5.0sec and a top speed close to 168mph, there’s added punch to the performance. It’s clearly stronger and more determined than before.
With greater torque at lower revs, the V8 also provides the Cayenne with a more relaxing gait and added calmness at motorway speeds, this in combination with a revised set of ratios for the standard eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The V8 is also smoother across a wider range of revs, adding to the impressive mechanical refinement in everyday driving conditions. It all makes you wonder if it’s worth paying the extra for the Turbo.
It isn’t just quick and refined in a straight line, either. The current S is already one of the most engaging SUVs in its class, yet this reputation has now been enhanced. It points remarkably well, its electromechanical steering being superbly precise, the rear-wheel steering ensures great agility and the four-wheel drive system delivers outstanding traction.
Granted, it’s no lightweight, but its ability to carry substantial speed into corners while continuing to deliver masses of grip makes it a special drive on challenging roads.
Could we tell the difference made by the suspension modifications? Not without direct comparison to the existing Cayenne. Porsche’s engineers are, however, adamant that moving back to dual-chamber air suspension gives the car better body control and ride compliance (the latter in combination with new larger-profile tyres, which they say better isolate road shock). The arrangement is a new development sharing little with that used on the old Mk2 Cayenne, we’re told.
Porsche has hardly transformed the Cayenne in terms of driving characteristics, but then very little was needed to keep it ahead of the in-class competition in this regard. As for the area in which it could have taken a stride forward, namely the interior, it has done precisely that.
Ever since its introduction two decades ago, Porsche’s luxurious large SUV has continually outshone its rivals, and we now wouldn’t be surprised if this leadership isn’t maintained by the facelifted Mk3.